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Pale Ink, by Henriette Mertz, [1953], at

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Early China

WE COME NOW to the second portion, the series of journeys referred to in Chapter I, dealing with early geographical records of the twenty-third century B.C.

The earliest explorations of the Chinese, in America, have not yet been determined. We found that, while Hwui Shan was in Mexico late in the fifth century, he had found a writing existing there before he arrived. The possibility then arose that some outsider had been in Mexico before Hwui Shan. He himself mentioned no other than the five Buddhist priests, but it appeared that either one person or a group of persons must have been in the area that he visited at a much earlier date, whether he knew of it or not. Three things would indicate it: first, writing, which is of paramount importance; second, weaving, that was mentioned in the Chinese Classics as being in existence; and, third, the fact that the giant images of Ha-ak and the horse compare with the astronomical configurations in Peru, that are believed to date back to the Nasca culture. All three are anterior to the date when Hwui Shan was here, since his account mentioned all three.

Of the three, writing is of the highest significance. Maya, and other early writings, are essentially pictographs—early Chinese writing was likewise picture writing. Dr. Brinton expressed an opinion that these early writings, many of them rebus-like, developed absolutely independent in America. He felt strongly that there was no connection with the Asiatic or any other, that nothing had been borrowed—and no connection or borrowing has yet been found.

The Chinese have 49,000 monosyllabic characters all of which evolved, in some manner, from the original pictures. If the Maya, like the Chinese, independently invented a written language, as Dr. Brinton believed, we must find the crude step by step process of evolution, as we do in the Chinese. It will be conceded that faltering beginnings may some day be found for the Maya but, as of now, we do not have them.

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Dr. Morley was of the opinion that the beginnings of Maya hieroglyphic writing were carved on wood and that, due to the moist climate, they have been destroyed—and with their destruction, all traces of the earliest stages of Maya writing, as well as chronology, have disappeared. He placed the first known examples that can be dated, to be about 320 A.D., but stated that, at that time, both writing and chronology were completely developed—no simple beginning steps that preceded the development have been found. On the contrary, writing was then, in 320 A.D., already complete with no preliminary stage having survived to show how it developed.

However, if the hieroglyphics were borrowed, and if the first concept as we have it, resembled the Chinese in any manner, then a presumption could arise that someplace a connection must have existed—either the Chinese were here or the Mexicans were in China. If there were a connection, then there could be only one course open and that would be to look—and there was only one place to look. The ancient Chinese Classics would, again, have to stand up and be counted. They must shed some light on the early wanderlust of the Chinese.

Were any records still extant that would tell us what China was like at the dawn of its brilliant civilization? Had sufficient archeological work been done that would supplement early recordings? If records did exist, were they available, and, if they were, did they reveal anything in the nature of geographical information? In other words, how much do we know or can we find out?

A farmer, living in Honan Province, was out plowing his field one day back in 1870. His plough turned up pieces of bone and shell which, on examination, were found to have peculiar markings on them. The farmer, and his neighbors, scraped off the funny looking scratches and sold the bones to gullible friends as dragon bones having miraculous healing powers. In 1898, one or two bones, on which some of the marks yet remained, fell, by chance, into the hands of a student of ancient writing who recognized the hieroglyphics and their value to Chinese history.

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The inscriptions were so ancient that it was nearly impossible to decipher them. Eventually, after thirty years of study, a large part of the characters were identified. "Then," reports Liang Chi-Chao in his report on the Archeology of China, "the result is that Chinese archeology is shaken to its foundation by this startling revelation. Many mistakes and conjectures of the etymology of certain words have now been rectified. Many great historical events which are recorded in old books and which have been unintelligible to us and regarded as fantastic and far-fetched, are now being corrected."

It will take generations to correct all of them. War has now intervened—archeological research is at a stand-still.

Ancient documents, pieced out by tradition, carry Chinese history back more than 5,000 years. China has a more authenticated, uninterrupted record from that date to this, than has any other people. It is not all perfect to be sure, and the beginning period is very meagre, yet, there is a clear descent of knowledge—and the basis for that knowledge stems from the early invention of writing.

For a long period of time, although the writing in the Classics was conceded to be very ancient, that which was written has been doubted—even today there are many who, while not believing a single word of it, positively and affirmatively deny that any of it contains a word of truth, that it is all whimsy.

Dr. H. G. Creel, author of "The Birth of China," relates a story of beliefs held by reputable scholars concerning early bronzes, on which writing exists, said by the Chinese to date from the Shang dynasty (1765-1123 B.C.) but insisted by outsiders as being impossible before the Chou dynasty (1123-249 B.C.) or before 500 B.C. Quoting from his book, he tells the following story:

"It is natural that the finest Chinese bronzes should have been thought to be comparatively late. Fine bronzes of certain types have long been attributed to the Shang dynasty by Chinese connoisseurs. Foreign scholars for the most part classed these statements with the tales of the unicorn, which appeared only in the reigns of wise emperors, and the archer who shot

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and killed nine of the ten suns which used to be in the sky. It is said that until a year or two ago, no European or American museum would allow any bronze in its collections to be labeled as earlier than the Chou dynasty, which followed the Shang. Nevertheless, the new materials have proved that the laugh is this time on the foreigner. For it is not only true that numerous bronzes were cast in the Shang dynasty; it is also true that those bronzes were, in general, of the type which the Chinese have been calling Shang all these years. This is not to say that the Chinese may not have made many mistakes in their attributions, but they have at least not been guilty of the sweeping error of the foreign specialists."

In all of these related matters, over the past 100 years, where the Chinese have made statements concerning their own past history, or their beliefs, it is to be noted that we, the foreigners, have presumed to sit in judgment and find the Chinese in error—only to discover later that they were not in error.

Although the first listed dynasty is recorded as that of Hsia, 2197-1766 B.C., eight or ten preceding emperors, back to Fu-hsi, 2852 B.C., are known. Dates vary and lists vary but the general over-all pattern is consistent—different sections of China used different systems of chronology. About 840 B.C., they appear to have been synchronized so that after that date, all agree—before it, dates may vary as much as 100 years.

Henri Maspero, in the Smithsonian Report for 1927-28, stated that: "An example of the confidence which may be accorded to the traditional lists, when the family from which they emanate is a long-established one, has recently been given by the inscriptions of the end of the Shang dynasty (1123 B.C.). The list of Kings which these furnish differs scarcely at all from that which has been transmitted to us by the anonymous annalist who, during the last years of the fourth century B.C., composed the history of China known as 'The Bamboo Books,' and by the great historian of the late second and early first centuries B.C., Ssu-ma Ch’ien, in his Shih Chi."

The great Yu has been consigned four or five meandering dates, but the Chinese credit him with the date of 2205 B.C.

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[paragraph continues] Yu was Minister of Public Works, serving under the Emperor Shun for seventeen years. The Emperor Shun has been assigned a date of 2250 B.C. and between his death and the time Yu ascended the throne, a three-year period of mourning was observed. Yu, it will be remembered, at the instigation of the Emperor Shun, compiled the Shan Hai King—the Book of Mountains and Seas.

Chinese wanderings as early as 3000-2500 B.C. are known to have taken place in Siberia and across into Alaska. Stone knives, according to Dr. Creel, found in China in all neolithic stages and in Shang culture, are found among northern Asiatic tribes and among the Esquimos but they do not occur in the Near East or in Europe.

Flint arrow-heads and stone axes of the period of 2000 B.C., on both continents, have an affinity that can not be lightly passed over. Dr. Berthold Laufer, in his fascinating treatise on Jade, written in 1912, devoted considerable space to stone implements found in China, dating from a remote time, that could not be identified and having no traceable historical background—an odd thing for China.

Photographs accompanying the descriptive material show axes, stone hatchets and arrow-heads that might well have been dug from mounds in the Mississippi basin. These stone implements, so Dr. Laufer says, came from graves which the Chinese in that locality identify as belonging to the Chou dynasty (1123-249 B.C.) and as he so fittingly remarked: "The internal evidence (from the graves) corroborates the historical tradition."

These stone implements were found by a missionary, Rev. Mark Williams. The find formed the basis of his report to Smithsonian, published in 1886. He described the area, near Kalgan, as having ancient mounds, in scattered position, which were about 30 feet high and circular in shape. They had no signal towers, which would have been normal for China. It was at the foot of one of these mounds that he found the first stone axe. He said that the Chinese of the area gave no rational explanation for the mounds and neither was there mention of them in the ancient records. However, he goes on to say, that

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to one familiar with the works of the mound builders in the Mississippi Valley, the stone axe, the mounds and the circular wall suggest that they could have been produced by no other than a similar race. The Rev. Williams felt that the similarity was so strong that both would have been derived from the same builder.

Gerard Fowke, in commenting on these same stone implements, in the XIIIth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, felt that a definite date could not be placed on them or even whether they were Chinese or non-Chinese, but it appeared to him that they were much more likely to have been produced by non-Chinese. He stated that the history of Shantung Province furnished ample proof that there existed an aboriginal population there of which historical records are silent, but that the time they were there was attributed to be under the Emperor Shao-hao or approximately the 26th Century B.C. Subsequently, the tribes of Ki-she and P’u-ku moved into the area. The Ki-she belonged to the time of the Emperor Shun and the Hsia dynasty (approximately 23d to 19th century B.C.). The Chinese themselves regard the stone implements as coming from that identical period. In the Tribute to Yu (Yu Kung) embodied in the Shu King, one of China's oldest documents, it is twice recorded that stone arrow-heads were offered as tribute to the Emperor Yu (2205 B.C.).

The above information and description concerning these stone implements came from material written between 1886 and 1912. If they were re-examined today, here in the United States, without doubt, much more positive identification could be made.

In May, 1953, Dr. Alex Krieger discussed, most ably, the question of Asiatic connections with reference to arrow-heads and specifically the "Folsom Point." He stated that the Indians of the American continent positively did not receive the Folsom Point from any Asiatic source, since points were found here as early at 10o,000 B.C., and in an unbroken chain down to at least 1 A.D. In China, he stated, pure Folsom Points have also

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been found but the earliest date that can be accorded to them, is 2000 B.C. Therefore, since those found on the American continent antedate the Chinese by at least 8000 years, he concluded that the American Indian definitely did not receive them from the Chinese. And Dr. Krieger appears to be absolutely right.

In discussions of this nature, one often wonders if all culture and borrowing is presumed to have come down a "one-way" street. No one has seemed to stop and consider that perhaps the Chinese may have picked up an idea or two that they thought had merit and have carried it off back to China.

It would appear to me that since the Chinese attribute a date of 2200 B.C. to the stone implements and they state in their records that arrow-heads were first presented as a tribute to the Emperor Yu, that all of the various accounts tally as to date. Yu was responsible for sending the groups out to explore all the regions of the earth, and one group, returning after he had succeeded to the throne, as a tribute, presented him with arrow-heads from America—a rare thing in China. Dr. Krieger, from a totally different standpoint, dated the first appearance of the Folsom Point, in China, as 2000 B.C. and, he stated that there appeared no preliminary stage leading up to it. Folsom Points, with their highly individualistic and complicated chipping, could hardly have arisen, full blown, in China, unaided. Dr. Krieger's date of 2000 B.C., in a measure, corroborates the Chinese records and the tradition of the Chinese living in Shantung Province, who placed that same date on the arrow-heads found there. This definitely is a "two-way" street. It appears that this was a "borrowing" by the Chinese of an original contribution from the American Indian. The Chinese who were sent out by Yu, in 2250 B.C. to find out about the world, were here, saw the arrow-heads, and took them back as samples of what they found. The dates, traditions, records and artifacts all coincide.

Pottery identified as the LI tripod, a bowl having three legs, has been found, primarily, in the northeastern parts of China, in very ancient sites. In the third, and last great phase of neolithic,

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the LI tripod, which is the most common of ceramic types, was in complete possession of northeastern Asia.

Edwin M. Shook, in his Research on the pre-Classic Horizons in Guatemala, in writing of pottery-making cultures throughout Meso-America before 200 A.D., has found a three-legged incensario and a special vessel set on three feet, dating from an archaic period. This form, he stated, continued through pre-Classic, Classic and post-Classic. It was the only pottery vessel with secondary supports found at two pre-Classic sites. John M. Longyear III, writing on an Historical Interpretation of Copan Archeology, stated that: "Polychrome basal-flanged bowls and black tripod vases, so diagnostic of Early Classic refuse, suddenly disappear in Full Classic." Both of these pre-Classic American tripod bowls have the same structure and design as the LI tripod identified by Dr. Creel. The colors found in slips and on most pottery found in Mexico and Central America, is close to that found in China—the shapes of the vessels are the same. Excellent photographs of tripod bowls and incensarios are shown in Dr. Morley's book on "The Ancient Maya." He dated the early beginnings of pottery-making as being before 1000 B.C.—it had arrived completed by that date.

Dr. Creel tells us that motifs used in the Shang bronzes are of various animal forms. Vessels in the form of an owl are prevalent as are the so-called "thunder" and "cloud" patterns. Both of these consist of whorls. They occur in ancient characters standing for rain and allied phenomena. In Shang vessels, hardly one is without one or the other of them. And from a paper by J. Eric S. Thompson, "Aquatic Symbols of the Classic Period," we find: "Among the Maya, the moan bird, apparently a variety of screech owl, is intimately associated with rain, not with death as is usually supposed. . . . In the art of the Initial Series period, the moan birds perch on the celestial dragons associated with the four world directions who are the senders of rain; the motif is common in Maya art, the moan bird is set amid cauac (storm) symbols."

Dr. Creel also remarks: "More specifically, North American

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[paragraph continues] Indians use the technique of representing an animal as if it were split and laid flat in two joined halves, just as we have seen was done in Shang design; these are the only two areas in the world in which this technique is used according to my present information."

The above illustrations show analogous things in Mexico and in China at very remote periods, long before Hwui Shan's visit. Comparisons could be multiplied tenfold—these merely serve as examples.

With reference to early writing in China, we find that while the earliest forms were pictures of objects, picture writing was no longer used by 1800 B.C. At that time, which we have as fairly accurate, the writing was neither primitive nor crude, but fully developed.

Fu-hsi, 2852 B.C., is traditionally ascribed as having invented the art of writing. His crude markings were elaborated upon by his Court Historian, Ts’ang Chieh, who used the markings as symbols for words. Ts’ang Chieh, along with Fu-hsi, is credited as being the inventor of the symbol writing that later was used.

His early word-symbols were soon simplified for convenience and from that simplification grew the character. At a later period, expression of thought and abstract ideas were found to be cumbersome to set down—combinations of characters, again simplified, developed from that. Many of the present-day 49,000 characters were, during the course of time, so combined and simplified that, today, there remains little resemblance to their archaic beginnings.

Some of the earliest books known to have existed brought tremendous prices in the market-place. It was previously thought that the Chinese produced very few books at an early time, but we now find that hundreds of thousands were produced as early as 1100 B.C. In the tomb of one king of about 300 B.C., there were found enough books to fill ten carts. In the Annals of Lu Shih, about 400 B.C., we are told that two chests full of books were brought into court by the Keeper of Archives.

Records of every conceivable kind were kept. Simple routine

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orders, easily transmitted orally, were written down, and then read, in order that there be no mistake and that the responsibility be fixed.

The ability to read and write appears to have been presumed as a part of the education of the upper classes, and by 1000 B.C., the Chinese already had a well-developed written history. The greatest portion of this writing was set down on bamboo and other fragile materials and, due to the moist climate, much of it completely disintegrated. However, the Chinese had, even at that remote date, the habit of copying one from another. Many copies of an original work were made—copies, through the centuries, were again made from those copies. Even though the original documents themselves were not preserved, many copies of them were. We do have the substance of what was written, in spite of the lack of the original. An early "Chinese copy," the forerunner of our "carbon copy."

Human foibles have changed very little from that time to this. When persons were buried, they buried a part of their effects with them. The aristocratic set wished, even in death, to be identified with the aristocratic set. The I LI lists a bamboo writing tablet as being among the articles of clothing with which the corpse of every member of the aristocratic class was to be dressed. It was used as a note-book—for the Chinese, like the Greeks, had the habit of constantly taking notes. They carried these note-books with them wherever they went—and they had one buried with them when they died.

This meticulous habit of jotting down notes and of keeping accurate records, is one of those minute details which gives one such joy to find. This systematic procedure dates from the earliest of recorded times—notes jotted down in a little black notebook.

Before turning to the Shan Hai King, I would like to tie together the early period of Yu, 2205 B.C., with that of Hwui Shan of the fifth century of our era. In Kuen 327, Hwui Shan wrote that the King of the country, Fu-sang, did not assume the responsibilities of State until three years after the death of the preceding ruler. In the China of Hwui Shan's day, that was not

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a customary practice—a new ruler assumed power immediately. The custom in Fu-sang was different and, for that reason, Hwui Shan made mention of it.

Turning back the clock of time in China, and looking at the prevailing custom in the period of Yu, we find that the identical practice did prevail in China and in 2250-05 B.C., that a king did not ascend to the throne until after a three year interval. Mencius, the Chinese philosopher, has told us that Shun, who succeeded to the throne of Yaou, and who was not his son, served under Yaou for 30 years. On the death of Yaou, Shun retired into seclusion for three years before ascending to the throne. On Shun's death, Yu, who had been Minister of Public Works and had served. Shun for 17 years, likewise went into retirement for three years before coming onto the throne. Therefore, at the time of Yu, in China, an emperor did not take over the reigns of government until after a three year period had elapsed. That custom prevailed on the date when Yu sent out his men to measure and map the face of the earth. They established the precedent in Mexico. It was continued without interruption until the time of Hwui Shan, in 500 A.D., when he made note of it. The time of the custom is fixed—the place where it originated is likewise fixed.

Next: Chapter XII. The Shan Hai King